DENVER — A television ad from the group Americans for Prosperity attacking Sen. Mark Udall is being criticized for its use of a photo from the Aurora theater shooting.
The ad shows Udall and President Barack Obama both with frowns and looking upset.
The photo, however, is a cropped version of the original taken in July 2012 at Children’s Hospital in Aurora moments after Obama and Udall met with family members of those killed and injured just days earlier in the Aurora theater shooting.
Cropped out of the image is Gov. John Hickenlooper who was with Udall and Obama during the hospital visit.
Udall’s campaign released a statement calling the use of the image “callous” and said “Congressman Cory Gardner should do the right thing by demanding his friends and allies stop using the Aurora tragedy for political gain.”
Gardner is Udall’s Republican opponent in a race that could determine control of the Senate next year.
AFP said that they would remove the image from the ad soon.
“Fortunately we can and will change the image. Senator Udall can’t change his record that led to over 335,000 Coloradans receiving letters indicating that their health care policy had been canceled,” said AFP Colorado’s executive director, Dustin Zvonek.
“The image used was an unfortunate oversight which was immediately corrected as soon as it was pointed out,” said AFP Director of Public Affairs Levi Russell.
AFP removed the ad from their YouTube account and uploaded a new one in its place.
A spokesperson for several families of the victims of the theater shooting called the image an “utter disgrace.”
“To insinuate the somber expressions were for anything other than their compassionate response to our heartbreak is beyond unconscionable. Americans for Prosperity is exploiting our tragedy for political gain and this ad should be pulled from the air immediately,” said the families of four Aurora shooting victims in a joint statement.
That statement was signed by Theresa Hoover, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips; Terry and Tom Sullivan; and Caren and Tom Teves.
Gardner himself issued a statement later Wednesday afternoon.
“As Senator Udall knows, our campaigns have nothing to do with the creation of outside advertisements,” Gardner said. “That being said, the use of this picture was insensitive and wrong, and I am glad to hear that it has been taken down.”
The ad is the second by AFP and focuses on the 335,000 health insurance policy cancellation letters mailed to Coloradoans as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
That figure has been disputed by Democrats, who point out that 92 percent of those individuals were offered options to renew their coverage.
The spot, which will run on Denver TV airwaves for the next three weeks, hits just as the billionaire Koch Brothers, whose fortune largely finances AFP, are becoming more of a focus in contested Senate races across the country.
James Holmes is charged with killing 12 people and injuring 70 others in an attack during a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at the Century Aurora 16 movie theater on July 20, 2012. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.